Oh Shit! Kit - Backcountry Insurance

By Matt Pritchard

This kit can magically save the day whenever you invoke its namesake phrase. "Oh shit, I broke the tent pole." "Oh shit, the tent fly is torn." "Oh shit, I'm spending the night out here, huh?" Get the picture? The Oh Shit Kit is something of a cross between a repair kit and a survival kit. Most of these items should be carried for an overnighter. For day trips, a few items can be removed from the kit. Some of these things are a part of the Ten Essentials. Assuming that you've already packed spare food and water, spare clothing, a compass and map, a mini headlamp, and a whistle, the list below will round out the Ten Essentials and then some. Most of these items need to be paired with a bit of Macgyver-style ingenuity to get you out of a fix.

  • 8 Long Zip Ties - One million uses and counting. Rather than thinking of what you might use them for, try to imagine what you couldn't use them for.
  • 1 Plastic Waist Belt Buckle - This is a replacement for the main waist belt buckle on your pack. Most things can be improvised if they break in the backcountry. You would have a tough time improvising this simple, but critical piece of gear.
  • 50 Feet Nylon Cord - Can be used for tying up a bear bag, creating guy lines for your tent and various first aid uses, like splinting a limb. Learn some useful knots - figure 8, bowline, double fishermans knot, butterfly knot.
  • 2 Small Clips or Carabiners - These don't have to be climbing-quality carabiners, they can be the keychain variety. They can help string up a bear bag or be used whenever else you might need an attachment point or pulley.
  • Tent Pole Sleeve - Used as a splint for a broken tent pole. (Can usually be found at REI near the tent stakes.)
  • Firestarter - You can buy firestarter "sticks" at most outdoors stores. You can also use a big wad of dryer lint (ewww) or cotton balls saturated with Vaseline (store in a film canister).
  • Waterproof Matches - Store them in a waterproof container for a second level of protection. Save these for emergencies, don't use them for lighting the stove.
  • Backup Lighter - If you use a lighter for most of your firestarting duties, bring a backup in case the first one bites the dust. Bring this in addition to the matches.
  • 10 Feet Duct Tape - Another one million uses and counting item. Roll it onto the tent pole sleeve or a pencil.
  • Small Sewing Kit - Nothing fancy, just some needles and a bit of thread. Try to pack needles and thread that are sturdy enough to repair pack and tent fabric.
  • 2 or 3 Candles - Bring the cheap tea light variety.
  • 5 Big Damn Rubberbands - For strapping things together. I cut 1" cross-sections of bicycle inner tube and use those.
  • 3 or 4 Ziplock Bags - Emergency waterproofing for electronic gear and other uses.
  • Spare Batteries - For your headlamp, camera, GPS, radio, etc. Try to buy gear that uses the same battery type.
  • Thermarest Repair Kit - If you use a Thermarest, or other inflatable sleeping pad, be sure to bring a patch kit.
  • Stove Maintenance Kit - O rings, pump cup oil, ball valve and spring - you'll have a tough time finding this stuff around camp. Learn how to take apart your stove ahead of time.
  • Emergency Blanket or Bag - Mylar sleeping system if you wind up on an unexpected overnighter. The bags are better, but more expensive.
  • Pocket Knife or Multitool - Bring something lightweight. Simple straight blade is all you really need. A razor blade can be substituted for lightweight geeks.
  • Small Tube of Seam Grip - This can be used for sealing a leaky patch job, repairing a boot, or otherwise gluing two things together.
  • Water Purification Tablets - If you run out of water and need to tap a natural source, be sure to purify it first. Diarrhea and vomiting from giardia aren't going to help your cause.

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